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This blog was featured on 03/27/2018
The Kindness of Strangers: New Writing Life with Kickstarter
Written by
How She Does It
March 2018
Written by
How She Does It
March 2018

When novelist Charlotte Watson Sherman realized that she might not get to finish her bookher passion projectif she didn't reach out for help, she challenged her old-school mindset andwith the help of strangersfell in love with writing all over again.

I'm old-school. Not only am I old-school, but I'm aged enough that I need to type this with a 24 pt. font on my laptop. And not only am I old-school with failing eyesight, I'm an unapologetic introvert. So why in the world would I try a Kickstarter campaign?

Kickstarter is an online funding arcade where creative types can post a project they need supporters to back, and then interested types donate the bucks. You can raise money for any type of project you can imagine--from a graphic novel or photography book to a cycling trip around the world that will result in a memoir/cookbook (a daughter's classmate's project).

A filmmaker friend suggested I just say no to the old-school publishing model, create my own NEA/Guggenheim-type fellowship for the research and focused writing time necessary for my fourth novel, and try Kickstarter.

I balked. I was clueless about social media. Was suspicious of the notion of Facebook "friends." I love hash browns--but hashtags?

I've published several books but wouldn't know how to reach a single reader if I now chose the independent publishing path and needed to alert those possible supporters . . .

I had to be taken by the hand and forced to sit in front of a computer. Now, my laptop would be one of the first things I grabbed if my tiny cottage caught fire; and I once worked as a computer lab librarian, so I'm no technophobe. Still, I hesitated.

Kickstarter is heavily reliant on social networking. I couldn't imagine faceless "friends" giving me even $1, let alone donating half the amount of an old-school fellowship. Plus, I probably only had thirty Facebook connections . . .

Then, my unemployment comp ran out. After three years, I still didn't have a job, had already sold my house for less than I'd paid for it like millions of other Americans, had exchanged my 215,000-mile dying car for one I could live in if necessary, and had watched my savings dwindle to zero. I figured now was as good a time as any to start that campaign.

Once I hit "Launch this Project," I immediately wanted to retract it. And I'm so glad I didn't.

By then, we were nearing the end of a closely-watched presidential election. And Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, NANOWRIMO began, my daughter and son-in-law purchased their starter home, and my project (I couldn't even utter the word campaign) was set to end on Thanksgiving. 

No, I told an incredulous friend, I didn't check the calendar; I was too busy wondering how on earth I was going to move into that car.

I spent the first two weeks battling demons--personal ones and those of other creatives.

Are you crazy . . . No one is going to give you their hard-earned money . . . What right do you have to ask for what you need . . . Who do you think you are . . . ?

I'm someone who loves to laugh, though you'd never guess that from the books I've written. Abandoned children. Women with HIV. Incest survivors. Things most people don't like to think about.

SuperSoul Sunday's Caroline Myss explains it like this: "Some are called to go into rooms where there is no light."

My project, God's Long Bones, is a novel about a 2004 alleged lynching in Mississippi. That hot button topic of race relations. But I want to write a new story about race. Not one filled with down-and-out black people and hateful rednecks, but a story illuminated with images of survival, healing, and hope, with an ending we've never seen before.

Because I swallowed my fear and pressed that button, I've come into contact with painters and musicians, writers and singers, strangers of all colors, who feel deeply about many of the same things I feel deeply about. 

And after being woman-handled by the old-school publishing world over the years, I have a new feeling about my writing future: excitement.

I have to complete this book, a newly-discovered artist's work awaits the cover, a soundtrack I didn't even know was possible needs to be recorded, a movie perhaps, could be made.

And whether I reach the fundraising goal or not--only 7 days left and a huge gap to fill--this experience was just the kickstart I needed.

5 Tips if you want to try Kickstarter:

  1. Don't wait until you press "Launch this Project" to figure out how to let lots of people know about it.
  2. Don't wait until the campaign begins to learn how to use Facebook. Make as many friends as possible as soon as you can.
  3. Don't wait until the campaign starts to learn how to use Twitter. Get as many followers as you can possibly entice asap.
  4. Don't wait until you're a week into the launch to figure out the members of the team you didn't know you so desperately needed.
  5. Don't wait.

* This post was originally published in November 2012.

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  • Kathleen Kern

    I empathize with your eyesight thing.  I have to blow up everything I read 300% on my computer, and I know that this handicaps me when it comes to keeping up with new literary writing.  I do read Poets and WRiters in 15 minute increments. (I'm catching up with 2 months of She Writes postings because of NaNoWriMo and other eye priorities, so sorry if this is coming out of the blue.)  Hope this worked out for you.

  • Tonya Rice

    Thank you for your inspiration and motivation!

  • Lissa Bryan

    I loved your article. Even if you don't reach your fundraising goal, it seems you found something even more important: drive to finish your project and friendships with people who can give you advice and support.

  • Lone Morch Publishing

    Wonderful and inspirational. Yes. You can do it. We can do it. You might just have kicked my butt to get my own kickstarter project launched. Thank you !!! Best of luck.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    How fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Charlotte.

  • Maureen Larter

    Wow! What a story! So exciting - go for it, Charlotte. I put all my doubts on hold and went in boots and all to publishing my own books - and I mean - doing it all from scratch - I have my first book launch on 24th November. 

    If I can do this much - just imagine what you can do.

  • Annie Tucker

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you for your honesty. As a newly hatched novelist, I'm often overwhelmed about how to even begin getting the word out about my own book, so I can empathize with what you've shared here. I hope your Kickstarter campaign succeeds and gives you the time and breathing room you need to finish your book.